Psychsaur came along with me to Seattle. I wasn’t going to bring her as there wasn’t any real reason to and she has her own life to live, but she asked about what I’m doing. “Just infiltrating some rich douchecanoe’s party scene of trafficked girls and boys to confirm he’s doing what I think he’s doing, then killing him. No different than your average Catholic Church service.”
What, did Pope Francis think I forgot? A lot of priests should consider themselves lucky I wasn’t Pope long enough to make some decrees.
Psychsaur ignored the jab at the Catholics. “You’re going to take your daughter with you into that situation?”
I thought about it. “I guess I can leave her in the room.”
“Around a bunch of criminals known for trafficking girls, who you’re going to piss off when you kill someone and stuff starts blowing up?” she asked, raising a decent point.
“Right, I need explosives…” My hands went to my waist, where my more integrated design left me without a belt to hang rubber chicken grenades from.
Psychsaur crossed her arms over her chest. “You know what I mean.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine, you have a point. I probably should arrange for a safe house for her.”
“I know people. I’ll go with you,” the heroine said.
I thought it over. Having a known superhero with me has the potential to alert Meecer’s people, but I did just give Psychsaur a hell of a makeover. She didn’t look anything like she used to. As long as she doesn’t throw on a costume, they shouldn’t realize who she is. “As long as you don’t go acting or looking like a hero, we’ll be fine.”
She shrugged. “Deal. I’m getting out anyway.”
“Really?” I asked. “Wow. Just so we’re clear, you’re going to stop being a hero?”
She nodded. “I don’t want to spend my whole life fighting and risking my life. There’s a lot of pressure to make that your calling when you have powers, especially if you don’t look human. I just want a chance to live my own life.”
I smiled. “Good for you. In that case, thanks for helping me with my super business before you hang up the cape and tights for good.”
She smiled. The bathroom door opened as Qiang finished and stepped out. “Ok, I’m ready to go!”
I threw a fist in the air. “Ok, kiddo. Tonight, Seattle. Tomorrow… the world!”
“Really?” Qiang asked.
I motioned her on over toward the door and the car. “Of course not. You’re too young for a whole world. Start with a fish and we’ll see how you do from there.”
Getting to Seattle wasn’t the problem. I just walked into a private airstrip like I owned the place and stole a doctor killer. That’s the nickname of private planes with a tendency to crash when flown by amateur pilots with more money than know-how. Lucky for us, I’m no doctor. If I was, I probably could have diagnosed why Psychsaur was so quick to get out of the plane when we landed and rush to the bathroom.
“Huh. I wonder what her problem is,” I said, looking to Qiang.
My daughter had put her helmet on at some point during the flight. As she unbuckled her seatbelt, she said, “Maybe she doesn’t like flying upside down.”
“Could be,” I said as I slid out of the plane.
Meecer’s people found us that night to invite me to the evil kidnapping rape ring, but in a classy way. You know, with an understated white envelope slid under the door and a beautifully calligraphied invitation with embossing. I held it up for Psychsaur to see. “I have a location.” And an instruction to dress casual.
It turned out to be a movie theater. I looked like anybody else on the street with my armor altering how I appeared to others. Some of those others were just people going to see a movie. I was missing a prime chance to catch the new John Wick alongside these folks. Well, most of these folks. The women with the super-expensive earrings and the guy whose watch I stole weren’t the usual types to go to this theater. I saw them head down a separate wing after an older ticket taker directed them there.
He approached me. “You are a new face. Do you have a ticket?”
“This is something of a premiere for me,” I responded, holding up the invitation. He looked at it brifly, then stepped aside and motioned for me to head down that wing of the theater. It led to a short stairwell down, then a doorway. And from there, a lavish scene of chandeliers, red carpeting, and a waiter stepping up.
“Drink, ma’am?” he asked.
“Not this moment. Perhaps later,” I said.
Two men approached. One was the same private dick from the house, whose name I never caught. The other was a larger man, wider, fatter, but not obese. He had a devious, hungry smile without a matching gleam in his eyes. “There you are… our newest guest.” The private investigator broke off to speak privately to the waiter while the big guy reached a hand out for one of mine. He settled on upper right. “Colburn. Jeffrey Colburn. I will be your host tonight.”
I looked to the investigator, who kept turned away to look at other attendees. I turned back to Colburn. “I thought our ultimate host was Meecer. I thought I’d be meeting him.”
Colburn laughed, like if Santa Claus wanted to take a butcher’s knife to some kids. “He limits his attendance at the Dark Bazaar. He doesn’t like connections. Here, let me show you our attractions.”
It’s disappointing Meecer himself isn’t here for the sake of convenience, but on with the show. The tour started with a particularly noisy area, where a cage surrounded by a clear container held two people. On one side, teen boy in a cage stood in a pair of shorts. He was a skinny one, no real muscle to him, with long, black hair. Facing him was a chunky girl who could have been in middle school, in shorts and a shirt. Both had collars around their necks.
Something yellow flowed out of the girl’s eyes, like little motes that drifted in the air. She began to hover off the floor, then moved her hands toward the boy. The motes shot at him. The boy raised his arms to shield himself and ice blossomed outward from him. Spines stuck into the ice or bounced off it, flowers beginning to bloom off what had come from the girl’s eyes. The girl directed those seeds or pollen or whatever they were down to the floor where they began to grow together into a quartet of thick vines with snapping flower mouths on the ends. They rose above the lip of the boy’s ice wall. He created small shields in the air to stop their bites, then held his hands out. Ice formed in the air in front of him and kept spreading over the rest of the enclosed area, trapping the vines. It almost reached the girl when a light flashed above the arena and the ice stopped moving and the girl fell to the floor. Both combatants appeared fine, but it seemed the boy was much stronger.
“Disappointing fight, but he’s so powerful that it’s hardly fair,” Colburn said. “We normally fight even after they bleed, but he can freeze anyone. I’d like to break him of the habit with a death match, but he’s premium breeding stock.”
“And the girl?” I asked, watching as both combatants were dragged out by guards in riot gear with batons and tasers.
“She’s too young for breeding, but pleasure is another matter. I advise giving her room to grow,” the ringleader of the night’s events informed me.
“I don’t think this was all made clear to me,” I said. “What’s all this about breeding?”
The man led me away, putting his hand over my shoulder in an overly-familiar way. He looked puzzled for a moment as he touched the armor, then continued his imitation of a shark’s grin. “An impressive villain like yourself must know the value of superpowers. Magic, cybernetics, random mutation, natural training, unnatural physiology, mad science; the ways to obtain such power are legion and unreliable. Prominent families agree that the best way to insure superpowers in your legacy is the result of proper breeding.” He led me to a hallway next to a bar area.
I looked around but I couldn’t see that investigator anymore. Maybe he’d ducked out, if he was smart enough, if he had me figured out. I doubt it, which meant he probably thought I was like all of these things.
Colburn jostled my shoulder. “Penny for your thoughts? You’re more quiet than I was led to expect.”
I motioned to the whole place. “Oh, just wondering how I could possibly have gotten so far without having heard of this place.”
Colburn’s fingers came together, tip to tip in an apologetic gesture. “One does not obtain an invitation by threatening to blow up the world. As I said, this is about the importance of good breeding in families of leisure.”
“Do you have much of a selection?” I asked, wondering how I was going to shut all this down. Destroying it was one thing; rescuing kids was another.
“We have hundreds of fit stock for you to peruse,” he said, snapping his fingers in the direction of a waiter. The waiter brought over what appeared to be a menu at first. Instead of a wine selection, there were lists of features: sex, ethnicity, skin color, hair type, body type, powers.
I turned and went to put a fist through his chest and pull out his lungs. Colburn, suit and all, turned black with white specks dotting him. My fist bang into him, but couldn’t penetrate. “Attacking us, Empress Gecko? Our hospitality is not to be violated.”
I pulled my hand back, but it caught in midair and began to pull toward him, along with my body. The room seemed like it sped up, and my arm stretched unnaturally long before I fell into Colburn. I fell out in a bedroom with a selection of fetish gear laying around. Standing in front of me was the teen boy from the fight. A voice came out of nowhere. “Boy, freeze her.”
“I’m here to get you out,” I told him.
He shook his head and pointed to the collar around his neck. “There’s no getting out with this bomb strapped to my neck.” He held up his hands toward me.
I turned invisible by instinct and began to charge my gauntlets. The ice advanced on all sides, even freezing my feet and closing off the ceiling from me. I lashed out at the ice, but it was replaced faster than I could break it. It closed over me, thick, restricting, until I couldn’t move.
I reached out with my mind, looking for something to help me out of this situation. I ended up connecting to a call being made. “Mr. Meecer, she disappointed us. Yes, just as small-minded as to be expected of new blood. Mmm, but isn’t it delicious to know we have such fine new breeding stock? One of the most famous villains in the world, and an Empress.”
“A rare treat,” came the response. “No one touches her before I arrive,” said the man I’d been looking for to kill.
Well, looks like I may have found my target after all, just as soon as I get out of this ice. If anyone expects me to warm up to the idea of sex slavery, guess again. If there’s anything I am at the moment, it’s a major frigid bitch.
A thankful one as well. Psychsaur texted me an update an hour later. “Police raided your hotel room. We’re safe at a friend’s.”
“Good. Keep her safe. Am captured, will deal with target. Side note: good thing I no longer have testes to freeze.”
Now that I’ve got a couple days to think, time to run through possible bomb collar frequencies. Then, when Meecer shows, I either set things off or disable them before busting out. All according to my mysterious plan that totally involved me getting caught. Yep. That’s how it’ll look when the story gets out on this end, at least.